Transgender rights bill advances

A bill that would protect transgender people from discrimination in jobs, housing and other areas gained preliminary approval Friday in the Senate.

Transgender discrimination already is barred by local ordinance in some areas, including Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Montgomery County. The Senate measure would extend transgender rights statewide, making explicit that people may not be denied jobs, housing or access to public facilities on the basis of their gender identity, even if different than the sex they were assigned at birth. 

Although laws already bar discrimination on the basis of sex or sexual orientation, courts have not held them to apply to claims of transgender discrimination.

Lawmakers labored over how to define "gender identity" to prevent sex offenders or others from misusing the legislation. They ultimately agreed it should be demonstrated mainly by "consistent and uniform" assertion of the new gender identity.

Sen. Richard S. Madaleno Jr., a Montgomery County Democrat and the bill's prime sponsor, said he was optimistic it would gain final approval, as 25 senators - a majority - cosponsored it. 

Similar legislation barring discrimination against transgender people is in effect in 17 other states and the District of Columiba.

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